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Superintendent's Corner: Changes in kindergarten program set for next year

By Dr. Joe Clark | Superintendent of Schools Published: January 11, 2017 12:00 AM

Happy New Year! May 2017 be filled with peace and blessings for you and your families!

 

Kindergarten Modification: After receiving feedback from the community at two open forums, the Board of Education and I have collaboratively decided to modify our half-time kindergarten program starting with the 2017-18 school year. Currently, half-time kindergarten students attend school all day on Tuesdays and Fridays, and half a day on Wednesdays. Beginning next year, half-time kindergarten students will attend school for half a day every day Monday-Friday.

This decision was made based on feedback from two community open forums. Last April, the Board invited the community to the Macedonia City Hall Community Room to ask for feedback on how the district could improve. One item that came up repeatedly was the structure of our kindergarten program.

In November the board held another open forum, this time at Lee Eaton, to get more specific information about the community's concerns with the kindergarten program. While quantitative data showed half-time and full-time kindergarten students were achieving at similar levels, feedback from teachers and parents suggested the lack of continuity in the current half-time structure needed to be addressed.

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I am pleased to see the community and the board come together to identify, discuss and improve an area that needed improving. If you have additional feedback about this change, please contact me or any board member.

School Governance: As I talk with people throughout the community, it becomes clear that school district governance can be a confusing topic. This month I'd like to explain Ohio public school governance, hopefully to clear up some confusion.

School districts call the offices in which the superintendent works different things. The Administration Building and the Central Office are common names. Another common name is what we use in Nordonia, the Board Office, which might cause one to think that everyone who works in the building is on the Board of Education. Not true.

State law requires that city school districts with a population of less than 50,000 have between three and five board members who are elected at large. Nordonia has five board members. I know of no district the size of Nordonia that has fewer than five board members.

Board members are elected in odd numbered years for four-year staggered terms. In Nordonia, members Chad Lahrmer and Liz McKinley were elected in November, 2015 for a term running through Dec. 31, 2019. The terms of Tammy Strong and Jim Szabo expire Dec. 31, 2017. Nick Berchtold was also elected in November, 2015, but his term will expire Dec. 31, 2017 also. This is because Nick ran for the remaining two years of the term that was vacated when former Board member Daniel Gallagher moved out of town.

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An organizational meeting must be held each January in which new board members are sworn into office and officers are elected. The board also sets the regular meeting schedule for the year at the organizational meeting. Law requires the board to hold at least one regular meeting every two months, but most schools boards in Ohio have regular meetings every month.. Ohio law allows board members to be paid $125 for each meeting.

In some places, the board also holds a special meeting every month in which they discuss issues. These special meetings are open to the public, and while most often there are no action items, the board may vote on issues in special meetings. In Nordonia, most regular board meetings are preceded by a special meeting. This is done purposefully to keep the board from getting paid for two separate meetings. Sometimes separate work sessions cannot be avoided, though, particularly when a district is in the middle of a major initiative (e.g., construction, negotiations, etc.).

Boards may enter into executive session at regular meetings or special meetings for only certain reasons, most commonly to consider the employment, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or student; to consider the purchase of property; to meet with legal counsel; and to prepare for negotiations. Law allows executive session for a few other less commonly used reasons, and boards must state the reason they are going into executive session. Boards may invite anybody they choose to come into executive session, but the discussions must remain confidential and the board may not vote in executive session.

Boards may call special or emergency meetings from time to time, but only the board president, the district treasurer or any two board members together have power to do so. Board members must have two days' notice of a special meeting and must alert the media at least 24 hours in advance of a special meeting. If a board cannot give the media 24 hours' notice of a meeting, the meeting is an "emergency meeting" during which no executive sessions may be held.

As individuals, board members have no official power. As a group, convened in an official meeting, the board's main job is to set policy for the school district. The district staff ensures the policies are followed. Because board members are elected officials, they represent the voters. The board is not responsible for the daily operations or management of the school district. The public is welcome to share ideas or concerns with board members, and board members can generally direct the public to the proper school employee to have concerns addressed.

Only two employees in Ohio school districts report directly to the board of education: the superintendent and the treasurer. The superintendent and treasurer work together to oversee the operations and finances of the district, but neither work for each other. The board hires and evaluates the superintendent and treasurer individually as a sort of balance of powers. At board meetings, the board's job is to vote on recommendations of the superintendent and treasurer. Because so much of what the board votes on are legal mandates or routine business, 5-0 votes are not uncommon.

I hope that clarifies any questions you have about public school governance in Ohio.

School Closing Information: The Nordonia Schools closely monitor the weather forecast for snow and extremely cold temperatures throughout the winter months. When the decision to close school is made the information will first appear on my Twitter feed. You can follow me at @DrJoeClark. In addition, parents will receive a phone call, and the information will be posted on our website and all major local news stations.

Whenever possible, the decision to close school will be made the previous evening. However, closings may be announced as late as 6 a.m. depending on a variety of factors.

There is not a specific temperature policy for the schools, but we use the National Weather Service Windchill Chart as a guide. You can find that chart here: www.nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/windchill.shtml.

In addition, we closely monitor road conditions and the ability of our buses to run on time. We will most likely have school if the temperatures remain in the lightest blue color on the chart and the buses are running on time. However, it is not uncommon for us to close when the windchill is -15 or colder for a sustained period of time. We make decisions that are in the best interest of our students with safety as our number one priority.

Parents know their children best. If parents are concerned for their children's safety getting to and from school or activities, we respect their right to keep them home.

When the Nordonia Schools are closed for weather, all evening activities in the elementary and middle school buildings are cancelled. High school activities may take place depending on the weather throughout the day. In addition, pre-school and Champions are cancelled and transportation to CVCC is not provided on "snow days."

Community groups scheduled to use school facilities on "snow days" (e.g., youth athletic leagues, Scouts, etc.) will have their events cancelled.

As always, thanks for supporting the Nordonia Schools, have a great month, and remember to follow me on Twitter @DrJoeClark.


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